What constitutes a "real" man or woman in the twenty-first century? Since birth control pills, erectile dysfunction remedies, and factory-made testosterone and estrogen were developed, biology is definitely no longer destiny.
In this penetrating analysis of gender, Beatriz Preciado shows the ways in which the synthesis of hormones since the 1950s has fundamentally changed how gender and sexual identity are formulated, and how the pharmaceutical and pornography industries are in the business of creating desire. This riveting continuation of Michel Foucault's The History of Sexuality also includes Preciado's diaristic account of her own use of testosterone every day for one year, and its mesmerizing impact on her body as well as her imagination.
"The day of your death I put a 50-mg dose of Testogel on my skin, so that I can begin to write this book. The carbon chains, O-H3, C-H3, C-OH, gradually penetrate my epidermis and travel through the deep layers of my skin until they reach the blood vessels, nerve endings, glands. I'm not taking testosterone to change myself into a man, nor as a physical strategy of transsexualism; I take it to foil what society wanted to make of me, so that I can write, fuck, feel a form of pleasure that is post-pornographic, add a molecular prostheses to my low-tech transgendered identity composed of dildos, texts, and moving images; I do it to avenge your death.
"I spread the gel over my shoulders. First instant: the feeling of a light slap on the skin. The feeling changes into one of coldness before it disappears. Then nothing for a day or two. Nothing. Waiting. Then an extraordinary lucidity settles in gradually, accompanied by an explosion of the desire to fuck, walk, go out everywhere in the city. This is the climax in which the spiritual force of the testosterone mixing with my blood takes the fore. Absolutely all the unpleasant sensations disappear. Unlike speed, the movement going on inside has nothing to do with agitation, noise. ItÕs simply the feeling of being in perfect harmony with the rhythm of the city. Unlike coke, there is no distortion in the perception of self, no logorrhea nor any feeling of superiority. Nothing but the feeling of strength reflecting the increased capacity of my muscles, my brain. My body is present to itself. Unlike speed and coke, there is no immediate come down. A few days go by, and the movement inside calms, but the feeling of strength, like a pyramid revealed by a sandstorm, remains.
"How can I explain what is happening to me? What can I do about my desire for transformation? What can I do about all the years I defined myself as a feminist? What kind of feminist am I today? A feminist hooked on testosterone, or a transgendered body hooked on feminism? I have no other alternative but to revise my classics, to subject those theories to the shock that was provoked in me by the practice of taking testosterone. To accept the fact that the change happening in me is the metamorphosis of an era.
"The changes within neoliberalism that we are witnessing are characterized not only by the transformation of "gender," "sex," "sexuality," "sexual identity," and "pleasure" into objects of the political management of living, but also by the fact that this management itself is carried out through the new dynamics of advanced techno-capitalism, global media, and biotechnologies. We are being confronted with a new type of hot, psychotropic punk capitalism. These recent transformations are imposing an ensemble of new micro-prosthetic mechanisms of control of subjectivity by means of biomolecular and multimedia technical protocols. Our world economy is dependent upon the production and circulation of hundreds of tons of synthetic steroids, on the global diffusion of a flood of pornographic images, on the elaboration and distribution of new varieties of synthetic legal and illegal psychotropic drugs (e.g., enaltestovis, Special K., Viagra, speed, crystal, Prozac, ecstasy, poppers, heroin, Prilosec), on the flood of signs and circuits of the digital transmission of information, on the extension of a form of diffuse urban architecture to the entire planet in which megacities of misery are knotted into high concentrations of sex-capital.
"In order to distinguish this new capitalism from the nineteenth century disciplinary regime, I shall call "pharmacopornographic capitalism" this new regime of the production of sex and sexual subjectivity."